Candidates in local elections answer questions
By LYNETTE SOWELL
A total of seven candidates have their names on the Nov. 6 election ballot for the Copperas Cove city council vacancies, to include Place 1, Place 2, and mayor.
A total of six candidates have filed to run for Place 1 and Place 2 on the CCISD board of trustees.
The Cove Leader-Press submitted three questions to each candidate for the city council, and of three questions to the CCISD board of trustees candidates.
COPPERAS COVE CITY COUNCIL
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE COPPERAS COVE’S GREATEST NEEDS WILL BE OVER THE NEXT THREE TO FIVE YEARS?
One of the greatest needs is to have job creation as a priority. Not just retail or food service, but manufacturing companies (solar panel manufacturing) to come in and hire local personnel. With I14 right at our door step and the possibility of the Joint Civilian/Military Multi-Modal Truck/Rail Cargo Transfer Facility that the City, the EDC, and the County are working on with Fort Hood. This could bring in many types of businesses that could use the facility to send their products made here out to the rest of the state and the country.
I have a wish list that I would like to turn into a reality. First is the Fort Hood joint use rail facility. It will bring in business and be good for Copperas Cove and good for Fort Hood. Next, I would like to improve the Animal Control facility. Then, I would like to see a new City Hall with plenty of parking.
We need to spend some time mending fences and reestablishing relationships among different groups in our city. Over the last few years, these relationships between city entities and community partners in our area have become strained. I am not concerned about why this is or who is to blame. I am concerned with fixing the problem. Even when there are differences of opinion, we must remember that we are all on the same team and must work together.
Second, we need to work closely with the EDC to attract light industrial and manufacturing to the area. Interstate 14 is a great opportunity to grow our community. We have property with infrastructure already in place and are positioned to be a choice location for businesses interested in direct interstate access. Additionally, we should fully research the possibility of designating some or all of our industrial/business park as an International Free Trade Zone. These exist all over the country and can bring higher paying jobs with lots of potential for growth to our area.
James Pierce Jr.
We need to get a permanent city manager in place and move forward, we need stability in the Fathom area (the problems that are occurring should have never happened), we need to get more citizens involved in the city, we also need to make sure the property tax stays the same while continuing to build our sales tax base.
I believe Copperas Cove residents deserve the best and as mayor for the next three to five years infrastructure and city services would be a main focus for me due to the city’s projected and current growth numbers in our commercial, retail, residential and projected industrial areas. Accommodating for these needs will be a budget balancing act. However, with thoughtful strategic planning and the right set of vision, we can accomplish the goal.
If I am re-elected, the main thing needed is to regain the community cohesiveness to allow us to move forward. We need to complete the actions of the E. 190 issue and general appearance of the city making it more desirable to prospective entities. Another pending project is the added lanes on the US 190 Bypass to allow the extension of I-14. To enhance these projects we are increasing EDC involvement and hopefully this will bring industry to Copperas Cove through a streamlining of the processes involved. A review of these processes may pave the road to progress.
The greatest needs are a vast spectrum of business growth within the community. I for one would like to see business growth in the mid to large companies. My opinion is; with these with companies of either or both sizes within the city, this would make available, careers and jobs opportunities for our residents.
IF ELECTED TO OFFICE, WHAT INITIATIVE(S) WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRY TO SET INTO MOTION DURING YOUR TERM?
The first initiative deals with communication and transparency with the citizens of our city. I would like to establish a Newcomers Brief for those who move to this city. This could be done once or twice a year to allow new citizens to come and find out what our City has to offer. Services, activities, and other pertinent information would be provided, and partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to provide upcoming events within the city. We can show off our City. The second initiative would be to establish a City Employee of the Quarter/Year to highlight our hard-working city staff. This would allow the City to recognize those that work hard every day.
The biggest thing is to have a resolution with FATHOM. At every council meeting there are more and more people speaking about problems they are having with FATHOM. We need to find a resolution. I want positive government, positive for the citizens of Copperas Cove.
My first initiative is an Ombudsman program. We select volunteers to act as outreach people for the city; they would be trained on what services and programs exist in the city, where the proper forms are on line or what office to go to solve a given problem. The ombudsmen would get training in active listening, effective communication and customer service techniques. I would like to begin the process for a Free Trade Zone designation in the industrial/business park with research about what steps are involved and communication/education of community and business members to build consensus. If we aggressively pursue available opportunities, Copperas Cove can be the place in Central Texas in which people want to do business and to live. Finally, I would encourage entrepreneurial thinking and problem solving. We should look at how other cities solve problems, so we can learn from them and adapt what they are doing to make it work in our community and provide more value to our citizens for their tax dollars.
James Pierce Jr.
Over the course of the next three years I would like continue to work the Fathom issue, transparency of city functions, a new city manager, true term limits, the over all appearance of the city along 190 and in downtown. We need to get a new EDC Director and get on the path of get businesses in to Copperas Cove and make us more successful.
In order to protect our growing commercial, retail and projected industrial developments on the east side of town, I would collaborate with the council and the community to build, equip and staff the new fire station/police substation that was proposed a few years ago to be built near the Narrows Industrial Park. I agree with the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), that due to “current and future growth in that area, the need for public safety response times to be reasonable and equitable to all citizens requires an additional fire station.” Other initiatives close to my heart include Emergency Management education for the public and business sectors.
If I am re-elected, the main thing needed is to regain the community cohesiveness to allow us to move forward. We need to complete the actions of the E. 190 issue and general appearance of the city making it more desirable to prospective entities. Another pending project is the added lanes on the US 190 Bypass to allow the extension of I-14. To enhance these projects we are increasing EDC involvement and hopefully this will bring industry to Copperas Cove through a streaming of the processes involved. A review of these processes may pave the road to progress.
A difficult question to answer. One definition for the Initiative(s) is: an act or strategy intended to resolve a difficulty or improve a situation; a fresh approach to something. The city is ever so changing and growing and there will always be ways or means to resolve a difficult or improve a situation; new ideas, opportunities and along with business growth in the city. But the most important step in any "initiative(s)”, is the residents getting involved. To vote, attend city council, town hall or other special city meetings so as to provide their ideas and experiences.
COPPERAS COVE HAS BEEN DESCRIBED BY SOME AS NOT BEING “BUSINESS-FRIENDLY.” WHAT ARE SOME SOLUTIONS TO REMEDY THIS PERCEPTION?
One solution involves reviewing codes and ordinances with regards to new businesses and determine whether they need to be revamped to be positive for new entities that want to come to Copperas Cove. Is the process cumbersome for the businesses to get started, can it be improved to streamline the process? Can we look toward another city our size that has great business growth and find better processes to put in place? Our city should be welcoming to all businesses. We need to partner with the EDC and the Chamber to make this a positive process.
Once the EDC gets going again, they will have the ball and we can work with them. The council can also come up with incentives that can be provided to incoming businesses.
To me, “business-friendly” means having common sense procedures and policies, consistent code enforcement and inspections, and updated and current codes and regulations. Copperas Cove should not abdicate their role as the referee when it comes to responsible growth and development in the city. By the same token, we should not make it harder than it needs to be for businesses to thrive in our community. We have to walk a fine line and keep a balance between the desire of the citizens while trying to bring more jobs and amenities to our city.
James Pierce Jr.
We need to reform the regulations that it take to move a business into the city. We need to completely redo the sign ordinance. We need to make sure we are business friendly (roads, infrastructure, utilities, taxes, building appearances). A streamlined and user friendly process of getting established would be a great start.
One way to make any city, including ours, business friendly is to encourage business owners to be involved in the planning and policy making processes. Sign and zoning ordinances, as well as building code regulations have an impact on all businesses. So, It’s good to introduce a powerful and innovative idea like a dedicated ‘business focus group,’ that is representative of many different genres of business, from small business to franchise or corporate business, with forward thinking owners/managers who can help market Copperas Cove, draw more business to the area, and bring a fresh perspective to the rules and procedures.
To start, I'd ask for clarification as our city invites business to build and grow within our city. As such, rumors and perception are just that; it's hard to comprehend the statement that our city isn't business-friendly. I would tell companies and individuals of small businesses looking to build and grown in Copperas Cove to visit with the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation within the city.
CCISD BOARD OF TRUSTEES
What do you believe CCISD's greatest needs will be over the next three to five years?
Board of Trustees Place 1
I believe CCISD’s greatest needs in the next three to five years will be improving current facilities and building a new elementary campus to accommodate the growth on the north side; there is also the need for One on One hand held devices.
John F. Gallen
The greatest needs in the next three to five years are, a new elementary school to accommodate growth to the north of the city, retention of quality teachers throughout the District, and upgrades and maintenance of aging facilities. The challenge is where does the money come from to accomplish these needs without raising taxes? School finance needs to be fixed at the state level and the burden taken off local school districts to fund education with shrinking contributions from the state. The local taxpayers are shouldering the burden and the state has not contributed enough to education in the state budget!
Board of Trustees Place 2
S. Ann Davis
I believe that CCISD is already a high functioning district, so I would hope to add to the current standard. But, in all cities, the needs change over time. I believe that CCISD will face challenges for funding specifically related to the federal funding impacts of the military community. Additionally, I believe the growth of the district will require some key decision-making regarding impacts to student to teacher ratios.
The greatest need facing the district today is to stem the loss of valued employees. The district must make Recruitment and Retention of employees across the district a priority. Valued teachers, paraprofessionals, maintenance personnel , custodians and bus drivers, who directly interact and impact our children every day, deserve more than just a cost of living adjustment. We should utilize a portion of the fund balance for initiatives supporting these valuable people that support the mission of education of students of the district.
Joseph W. Leary
I think maintenance to existing facilities as well as new facilities will be a need in the next three to five years, if not sooner. With the growth of our community we need to have adequate room for students and teachers to succeed. Along with that, the need to maintain and attract quality teachers is a must! That is a direct correlation to the success of students. Smaller classes, better environment.
Harry L. Byrd
With the loss of Federally Funded Impact Aid, we will be challenged to do more with less. We will continue to maintain and build on our care and education for all of our special needs students within our special education department within our district. Since April 2018, this would be 13 % of all public school students. Among students receiving special education services, 34% had specific learning disabilities. I'm a firm believer in no child gets left behind.
We are bless to have good facilities and schools. Some are getting up there in age, but we have maintained them at a high level. With the addition of new homes in the area and our Junior Highs, pretty close to being at capacity. We really need to look into the possibility of building a new high school. It's not about me today, but all about us looking into the future for Copperas Cove.
IF YOU ARE ELECTED, WHAT SKILLS WOULD YOU BRING TO THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES?
The skill that I bring to the board is my ability to listen and work together for the purpose of educating all students. The Board is made up of seven individuals that makes decisions as one.
John F. Gallen
The skills I bring to the board of trustees are experience at the local level in government as a former city council member, my problem solving skills from my 20 year teaching career and 20 year military career, and my openness to the taxpayers, parents, teachers, students, and administration to hear their concerns about the District. My priority is students and teachers first! Everything the District does needs to be in support of this priority and if elected, I’ll strive to accomplish and maintain that priority!
S. Ann Davis
I am a keen facilitator and public speaker, so I would hope to increase awareness in the community about things on the horizon. I also take pride in moderating to work through differences; and I look forward to being a voice of reason when necessary.
I will bring the commitment, and the fortitude to proudly represent every parent, guardian, student and taxpayer of CCISD with the utmost fervor to ensure resources are allocated supporting education. Decades worth of Financial Management, Contract Oversight, and Program Management provide me the skills to delve into records and balance sheets to ascertain reason and prudence involving limited resources being expended by CCSID. The last year alone the district has spent or committed $23 Million dollars toward acquisition and construction or nearly 50% of the $59 Million in uncommitted fund balance accumulated over the years. I call for investing in people, investing in education, investing for the future.
Joseph W. Leary
Problem solving has always been a strong point for me and I can add to the knowledge that is currently on the board. Also, I feel I will be able to bridge the gap between generations. I am certain I can connect and relate with teachers, parents and students on a close level so that everyone can work together to meet the common goal of teaching and raising successful students. Having 4 children, 3 currently in the district, and having recently been a teacher allows me to communicate closely with our teachers, parents and children of the community.
Harry L. Byrd
The character and skills that I've been bless to bring to the table these past 3 years. Honesty, Integrity, Joy, Happiness, Peace and Love. A great degree of mechanical skills, a degree of construction skills, a degree of business skills, a degree of educational skills and most of all a great walk with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In your opinion, how can CCISD enhance and/or improve its transparency?
CCISD provides a comprehensive website that is loaded with answers from A to Z, Facebook, Twitter, and several other social media outlets as well as YouTube. The majority of CCISD’s leadership team and the board members are involved in the community and are members of a number of civic organizations, another source of information.
John F. Gallen
Transparency is paramount when you are a steward of the taxpayers money. The public has the right to know how their money is spent. Information needs to be available to the public in a timely manner within the boundaries of the laws governing elected bodies. To that end, the press plays a big role in getting information out and in Copperas Cove our press entities do an excellent job with the information they are given! A suggestion to enhance transparency is for the superintendent to have a weekly or monthly column (call it, a view from the school bus) to address issues of concern by the public in other than the School Board meetings. School board members also need to be accessible to their constituents to answer questions and concerns and take these to the District Superintendent.
S. Ann Davis
I believe that the district is already transparent. But, in an effort to understand what I’ve heard from the voices of the community who remain uniformed: I’d strive to make agendas more accessible, communicate more with the schools to put out information to parents and gauge the community on how taxpayers wish to notified. It’s all about check and balances.
Organizational transparency is a fundamental responsibility of an organization to its stakeholders. This equates to taxpayers, students, employees associated by any degree to the school district. The district staff superbly facilitate organizational transparency across multiple media platforms, internet posting on its webpage, media releases thru multiple news organizations. Except were mandated by law the district must disclose required board minutes, financial records, report cards with ease of access in mind. Additionally adopt a policy where unless mandated by law, curtail voting in executive session. When voting is mandated in executive session, provide as much context as allowed by law when making motions or voting in open session concerning matters discussed in executive session.
Joseph W. Leary
Ease of access is what I think will help with transparency. I feel if the people of our community have an easy way to access detailed notes, rather than having to dig for information, it will solve some of the issues that have come up. It will cause everyone to be held to a high standard, because everyone will be watching, but that is what we as a community expect. Of course there are matters that are not permitted to be published, but again ease of access to open meetings would help.
Harry L. Byrd
CCISD already has a positive image. It all starts with the Head or Top of the chain. The school board was already a very good board before I even became a board member. Our Superintendent is one of the best in the business of education and we are bless to have him, Dr. Joesph Burns.
We will continue to work and keep a balanced budget, performing schools, AAA credit rating, educating our students and preparing them for the future at the next level, CTE, STEM and college. Competitive pay and benefits for all of our faculty and staff to include our crossing guards. And Copperas Cove our community deserves the best schools and facilities in our country.
Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 2. Polls for early voting are located in Copperas Cove at the Coryell County Justice Center, located at 210 S. 1st St. and in Gatesville at the Main St. Annex, 801 E. Leon St.
Polling dates and times are as follows:
Oct. 22, 8 a.m. 5- p.m.
Oct. 23, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Oct. 24-26, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Oct. 29, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Oct. 30, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Oct. 31-Nov. 2, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.